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Sigur Ros & r & Hvarf/Heim & r & 3 Stars & r & Listening to the music of Sigur Ros, even without the advantage of actually speaking Icelandic, remains one of the more intoxicating experiences in contemporary music. And while the most recent two-disc, eleven-track release is more retrospective in its scope, with only three new songs ("Salka," "Hliomalind," and "I Gaer"), the reanimation of the other eight tracks invigorates the listener because of the band's emotional intensity. These Icelanders communicate through glorious dins and restrained nuance in spite of a language barrier.

Part metallic crescendo-seekers (Hvarf), part meditative warmth (Heim), the double album offers a sincere balance between the extremes of the band's performatory capacities. Neither outweighs the other; rather, the two serve as complementary pieces in their capacities to suggest the subtlety of their diverse approach. As such, the two albums reinforce that the music is experienced more than it is simply heard. If such statements make me a douchebag, so be it.


Download: "Hafsol"

Robert Plant & amp; Alison Krauss

Raising Sand

4 Stars

The pairing of such disparate musicians has all the makings for an absolute tragedy, a whimsical, though disastrous, amalgamation of incompatible styles that produces nothing more than uncomfortable laughter. Yet, the album approaches magic wonder on nearly every track, most notable for its reserved presentation. None of Plant's bombastic vocal cacophonies of the past, none of Krauss's bluegrass-soaked grandeur -- the two produce a meditative, country-and-blues-inflected calm that renders one of the more complete musical visions of the late fall.

"Killing the Blues" does not necessarily accomplish the title's goal, but the melancholic pedal steel brings the song to a satisfactory compromise: If the blues remain, as they should, they ought to sound this mournful. "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson" showcases Krauss in a honky-tonkin' good time about the woman who got away.


Download: "Your Long Journey"
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